Ultraviolet (UV) radiation potentially damages the skin, the immune system, and structures of the eye. A useful UV sun protection for the skin has been established. Since a remarkable body of evidence shows an association between UV radiation and damage to structures of the eye, eye protection is important, but a reliable and practical tool to assess and compare the UV-protective properties of lenses has been lacking. Among the general lay public, misconceptions on eye-sun protection have been identified. For example, sun protection is mainly ascribed to sunglasses, but less so to clear lenses. Skin malignancies in the periorbital region are frequent, but usual topical skin protection does not include the lids. Recent research utilized exact dosimetry and demonstrated relevant differences in UV burden to the eye and skin at a given ambient irradiation. Chronic UV effects on the cornea and lens are cumulative, so effective UV protection of the eyes is important for all age groups and should be used systematically. Protection of children's eyes is especially important, because UV transmittance is higher at a very young age, allowing higher levels of UV radiation to reach the crystalline lens and even the retina. Sunglasses as well as clear lenses (plano and prescription) effectively reduce transmittance of UV radiation. However, an important share of the UV burden to the eye is explained by back reflection of radiation from lenses to the eye. UV radiation incident from an angle of 135°-150° behind a lens wearer is reflected from the back side of lenses. The usual antireflective coatings considerably increase reflection of UV radiation. To provide reliable labeling of the protective potential of lenses, an eye-sun protection factor (E-SPF®) has been developed. It integrates UV transmission as well as UV reflectance of lenses. The E-SPF® compares well with established skin-sun protection factors and provides clear messages to eye health care providers and to lay consumers. © 2014 Behar-Cohen et al, This work is published by Dove Medical Press Ltd.
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- back reflection
- risk reduction
- solar irradiance